Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Why Native Plants

Among the nature-related books I've bought in the past year or so is Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens by Dr. Doug Tallamy. Recently, a friend emailed me a link to Dr. Tallamy's brief video entitled "Why Native Plants." It's only 4 minutes long and well worth a watch!

Live webcast from Bracken Bat Cave next month

Hey, y'all, this sounds really cool via BatsLive.....

A live electronic field trip will be held on September 18 at the Bracken Bat Cave near San Antonio, which is the summer home of the world's largest bat colony. As millions of bats emerge from the cave, watch the live program from 7 to 8:30 p.m. ET. 

With millions of Mexican free-tailed bats living in the cave from March through October, Bracken holds one of the largest concentrations of mammals on earth. The emergence of these millions of bats, as they spiral out of the cave at dusk for their nightly insect hunt, is an unforgettable sight. For more information about Bracken Bat Cave on the Bat Conservation International web site, CLICK HERE. Be sure to check out the spectacular video. Learn about: the Mexican free-tailed bats of Bracken Cave and other bat species, predators that wait for their nightly emergence, threats to bats including White-nose Syndrome, how you can help these beneficial creatures, how bats navigate using echolocation, cave ecology and more.

Watch the May 17 Webcast for Students
BatsLIVE: A Distance Learning Adventure was webcast live on May 17, 2012. CLICK HERE to watch the program. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A ladybug and other stuff

Harmonia axyridis
I try to photograph every ladybug we find in our Wildscape so we can submit a report to the Lost Ladybug Project at Cornell University. This is a multi-colored Asian ladybug, an introduced species from Europe. So far, I've contributed 20 images to this research project.
Matelea biflora
Speaking of research projects, I submitted these photos of a purple milkweed vine seedpod (with common milkweed bugs below) and a prairie verbena going to seed to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center's Image Gallery. 

Glandularia bipinnatifida
A cool fly...working on ID.
One lone oxblood lily blooming!

One big moth!

Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus)
This morning, I was in the car, backing down the driveway, when I happened to glance at our front door. Darn in! Now I gotta turn off the car and go back in the house for my camera... Which I did, of course. I certainly can't miss the chance to photograph a huge, beautiful silkmoth! After looking at similar moths on, I posted this photo and asked if I had the ID right: Antheraea polyphemus. Yes!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Purple clematis

Earlier this spring, I bought a purple leatherflower (Clematis pitcheri) from the Texas Native Plant Society in Boerne. The vine, which grows on our chain-link fence, bloomed recently. And then something broke off a branch, darn it. But then I noticed the beautiful (fluffly!) seed heads. So I carried the branch inside and scanned an image (below). Awhile ago, I finally photographed a close-up. I've submitted both to the Image Gallery at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, where I'm contributing photographer.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Exciting news on the spider front!

James forwarded me a link yesterday with some exciting spider news. Well, it's exciting if you love spiders like I do. Here's the scoop..."New family of spiders found in Oregon cave," reports Jeff Barnard with the Associated Press:

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP)—Amateur cave explorers have found a new family of spiders in the Siskiyou Mountains of Southern Oregon, and scientists have dubbed it Trogloraptor— Latin for cave robber—for their fearsome front claws.

The spelunkers sent specimens to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, which has the West Coast's largest collection of spiders. Entomologists there say the spider—reddish brown and the size of a half dollar—evolved so distinctly that it requires its own taxonomic family—the first new spider family found in North America since the 1870s.

Click the link above and read the rest of Barnard's article!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Look what I spotted!

One of the reasons I really wanted a stock tank pond was because of what I'd seen hovering around one at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: dragonflies! Since we put our tank together last May, I hadn't seen dragonflies or damselflies hanging out near our pond. Just a few cardinals, white-winged doves, red wasps and paper wasps. Lots of paper wasps. And then....

Right before supper this evening, I was out feeding the fish herd and pulling out dead leaves when I startled a...what's that? infant damselfly! Or more precisely, a damselfly naiad. I think it'd just emerged! Isn't it CUTE? Like mosquitoes, damselflies lay their eggs in water.  

According to the AgriLife Extension's online field guide, damselfly "eggs are deposited in emergent plants or floating vegetation or directly into the water. Immature damselflies (naiads) hatch from eggs and live in water. They develop through 10 to 12 immature stages (instars), although there may be more or fewer instars depending on the species and habitat. The last immature stage crawls out of the water onto vegetation before the adult emerges. Most species have one generation per year."

Caught wet handed!

If I could, I'd spend all day by our stock tank pond, watching the gambusia and peering into the water. After lunch today, James caught me out there, visiting with my herd of minnows and cooing at the babies (which just keep increasing in numbers). Everyone's always so excited to see me. I feed them a few fish flakes twice a day, but surely THAT'S not the reason they all come running when I appear. Right?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Cicada capers

Cicadas emerge from their pupae everywhere and anywhere. They're not picky. Check out these photos from our Wildscape. Also, see one emerge bit by bit in my July 30, 2010, post "The rebirth of a cicada."

Friday, August 3, 2012

Wandering through the Meadow

Look what I spotted on the purple milkweed vine! A monarch caterpillar! But wait a can't be. Once I started looking a photos of Danaus plexippus caterpillars, I realized I was wrong. For one thing, this child has red tinges of color, which monarch caterpillars don't have. A little nosing around on the Internet, and I found the answer: it's a queen (Danaus gilippus)! 
Another clue: Monarch caerpillars have two sets of tubercles (those antenna-looking appendages) and queens have three. 
I guess it's been a LONG time since I've seen a queen caterpillar. Cool!
Texas bindweed (Convolvulus equitans)
Waiting for help from Jerry Stacy, a fellow Texas Master Naturalist, for the ID of this mystery plant. Aren't the tiny flowers sweet?
UPDATE–What a sleuth! Jerry figured out my mystery plants: Knotweed leaf-flower (Phyllanthus polygonoides). How'd you do that, I asked him. "A big book. Flora of North Central Texas," he wrote back. That IS a BIG book! I've seen it! Thanks, Jerry!
Carolina snailseed (Cocculus carolinus)
I've seen this plant for years and always ignored it. In my email, I asked Jerry if he could ID it, too. "Looks like prostrate euphorbia," he wrote. "Ground spurge." He's right! Euphorbia maculata is "a late-germinating, low growing, mat-producing summer annual," according to Michigan State University's Turf Another mystery solved! Thanks, Jerry!

Commander Ben visits

Yesterday, James and I hosted Commander Ben and his mother, Mary, for lunch. I first learned about this amazing young man when I happened upon his website a few months ago. We met in person last month at a Nature Night at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. He's only 13 but so passionate about fighting invasive plants and animals in our natural habitats. He's also very interested in all sciences and love animals of all kinds. Check out his "Commander Ben, Invasive Hunter" episodes and other videos on YouTube. Oh, yeah, you can bet I'm writing him up!